On the Qur’an and Knowledge

“And say, Lord increase my knowledge.” (Qur’an 20:114)

There are many misunderstandings that surround the Qur’an. It is often depicted as a book of violence and hatred that only pushes Muslims to blindly commit acts of terror. Many people who have not read the Qur’an or who do not understand enough about it to properly approach it are unable to understand its core messages. Not only does the Qur’an not encourage violence, it provides a guideline to engage the world and to find a purpose in life. One of the main ways it does this is by making knowledge and reason central to religious pursuit. In other words, a major feature of the Qur’an is its emphasis on reason as a means to understanding this world and the Divine. Continue reading

On Hitting Wives

Love and Mercy in Arabic

Among the many stereotypes about Islam is that it is oppressive towards women and that it is a rigid and unchanging faith. Often the hijab and covering in general are mentioned  as examples of this oppressiveness. Another example that is used to demonstrate the faith’s attitude towards women is verse 34 in chapter 4 of the Qur’an:

Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds (and last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance): for Allah is Most High, Great (above you all). (34)

For many, this verse permits men to hit their wives. While it is true one cannot dismiss this verse and must address the issues that it raises, it is equally important to recognize that throughout the history of Islam, discussion, dialogue, and diversity of opinion and interpretation have all be been prominent features of the worldwide Muslim community. This verse, specifically, has sparked and continues to generate discussions in regards to how men should treat women. Continue reading

The Prophet as Statesman

One of the biggest challenges for Muslims around the world is the plethora of negative stereotypes that have come to be associated with Islam, many with a very long history. Among the most pervasive of these are related to the Prophet Muhammad, who is still not understood by many non-Muslims. Throughout my life, I have been repeatedly asked about the Prophet’s life and specifically his role as prophet, statesman, and in some situations military leader. Many find it disconcerting that he led his followers into battle. They often compare him to Jesus to show that he was not peaceful. However, the Prophet did not engage in indiscriminate warfare, but instead opted for diplomatic options whenever possible. Being a statesman does not take away from his prophethood; rather, his conduct as a statesman and military leader serves as an example of leadership. Continue reading

Radio Show on Radicalization Hearings

Rep. Keith Ellison Testifying at the hearings

On Wednesday, March 16th, Here on Earth host Jean Feraca will talk with Prof. Ingrid Mattson, director of the Duncan Macdonaled Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations at the Hartford Seminary and previous president of the Islamic Society of North America, about Representative Peter King’s hearings “on the extent of radicalization in the American Muslim community and that community’s response.” According to Rep. King, Muslim organizations have not cooperated  enough with the government to prevent more attacks by radicalized Muslims.

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The Violence Needs to Stop: This Is Not Islam

Last week, I wrote about the killing of Iraqi Christians by extremists in the name of Islam. Unfortunately, events over the weekend require me to return to this topic yet again. Just after midnight January 1st, there was a deadly attack in Alexandria, Egypt on the Saint’s Church. Twenty-one people were killed and some 79 were injured as a car bomb exploded outside of the church after New Year’s Mass. Not only is this event tragic but it puts the Coptic community in Egypt on edge ahead of their Christmas on January 7th.

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No One Should Be Killed for Their Religion

Iraqi Muslims and Christians in a vigil for victims of the attack

This year’s Christmas celebrations in Iraq were subdued. Many of Iraq’s Christian citizens have fled after the massacre in the Syriac Cathedral of Baghdad where gunmen from a group linked to Al-Qaeda took over 100 hostages. In the end, 44 were killed. The fact that Christian citizens in Iraq fear for their life and have become the targets of violence by people claiming to act in the name of Islam troubles me. It is another example of a group of Muslims taking Islam hostage to put forward their own political agendas.

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Islam is not getting a pass

Tomorrow, May 6th, National Day of Prayer events will take place at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill. This year’s events are receiving media attention because of the Pentagon’s decision to rescind their invitation to Franklin Graham, the son of Evangelist Billy Graham. According to Col. Thomas Collins, this decision stemmed from Graham’s controversial statements on Islam that include calling it an “evil and wicked religion” and saying that “[true] Islam cannot be practiced in this country. You can’t beat your wife. You cannot murder your children if you think they’ve committed adultery or something like that, which they do in these other countries.” Collins said, “We’re an all-inclusive military. We honor all faiths…Our message to our service and civilian work force is about the need for diversity and appreciation of all faiths.”

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The Times Square Suspect

In light of the news today of the arrest of Faisal Shahzad, a recently naturalized US citizen of Pakistani descent, who is charged with attempting to detonate a car bomb in New York’s Times Square, the last Inside Islam radio show on Jihad becomes even more timely.  Jean spoke with Michael Bonner and Faisal Devji on the meanings of jihad and how many who claim to be jihadists are actually operating outside of Islamic law. Devji, in particular, emphasized that those involved in violent operations are acting as individuals, unlike in the tradition where jihad is a collective activity ordered by a leader like a caliph. Moreover, these individuals are not necessarily acting out of religious motivations, although they use religious discourse as the framework, but out of ethical reasons, like problems with US foreign policy.

After hearing the news last night about the arrest of Shahzad, I was immediately reminded of Devji’s argument and like many others extremely frustrated by the damage these acts do to the image of Islam and to the vast majority of other Muslims who do not condone these acts. In the media, not enough is done to highlight that these acts do not represent Islam or the loyalty of Muslim Americans just as the Hutaree militia does not represent Christianity. It is very frustrating to me the conspicuous difference in coverage between this story and the Hutaree militia plot. For example, it is disconcerting that there so much focus on his US citizenship when there did not seem to be the same on focus on the citizenship of the 9 Hutaree militia members. Moreover, since he is a Muslim, it becomes acceptable to call it terrorism while with the Hutaree, Christians, it is extremism. Continue reading

Anti-Islam Message in Children’s Books

While many people assume that textbooks reflect history as fact, often they really indicate the position of the author. This is an important issue because students receive much of what they learn in school from textbooks. It is for this reason that the Council on American-Islamic Relations began a campaign last month against the “World of Islam” books put out by Mason Crest Publishers in partnership with the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

The ten-volume series is meant for middle school and high school students and covers a range of topics. The titles in the series include: Divisions in Islam; History of Islam; Islam in Europe; Islam, Law and Human Rights; Islamic-Jewish Relations before 1947; Islamic Rituals and Celebrations; The Monotheistic Religions; Muslims in America; The Muslim World: An Overview; and Radical Islam. Continue reading